US Secretary of State Antony Blinken denounced Russia for staging "sham elections" in the Ukrainian regions that Moscow claims to have annexed.
Blinken issued a statement on Thursday. He said, "The Russian Federation is in the process of conducting sham elections in occupied areas of Ukraine." He also said, "The Kremlin hopes these pre-determined, fabricated results will strengthen Russia's illegitimate claims to the parts of Ukraine it occupies, but this is nothing more than a propaganda exercise."
Blinken added, "Russia's actions demonstrate its blatant disregard for UN Charter principles like respect for state sovereignty and territorial integrity, which underpin global security and stability. The United States will never recognize the Russian Federation's claims to any of Ukraine's sovereign territory."
What Blinken described as "sham elections" are being staged by Russia in four eastern and southern Ukrainian regions. Moscow announced last year that it had annexed those areas.
The move comes as gubernatorial and other local elections are being held across Russia.